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Funny or not, Lorne Michaels leads

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

For many leaders, motivation means pumping people up to achieve a big goal within a tight time frame. Lorne Michaels’ team faces a hard deadline every six days.

Michaels, 69, created “Saturday Night Live” in 1975. He still runs the legendary comedy show.

“If people sense how committed you are, what the standard is, what you believe in, what you expect, they respond to that,” he says. “And if they care as deeply as you do, it doesn’t take a motivational speech.”

But leading by example isn’t enough. Michaels understands that his cast members crave a chance to prove themselves. They get upset if they feel their suggestions for comedy sketches aren’t taken seriously.

That’s why he stages dress rehearsals that run up to 35 minutes longer than the allotted time in the actual live show. Building in extra time—with a test audience in the seats—enables Michaels and the performers to assess what works and what doesn’t.

If the audience doesn’t laugh, everyone shifts into editing mode.

“Creative people respond better when they feel they’ve been heard and had a chance to see how the thing they believed in actually performed,” Michaels says.

Michaels seeks to support his team through these teachable moments, boosting their resilience and urging them to learn and grow. He finds that most of them benefit from occasional failure and become increasingly agile performers.

— Adapted from “Life’s Work,” Alison Beard, Harvard Business Review.

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